Shock and anger as nurseries close in Bearsden and Milngavie

Little Gems Nursery North View Lane, nursery closed without warning.'Staff Jade McMahon,Jenni Brown,Karin Hutchison and Pamela McLeod with some of the nursery kids. Mother Margaret Devaney with son Michael'1/10/11'Photo Emma Mitchell
Little Gems Nursery North View Lane, nursery closed without warning.'Staff Jade McMahon,Jenni Brown,Karin Hutchison and Pamela McLeod with some of the nursery kids. Mother Margaret Devaney with son Michael'1/10/11'Photo Emma Mitchell

CHILDREN and staff at two popular nurseries in Bearsden and Milngavie were reduced to tears when they were told the businesses would be closing with immediate effect.

Shocked nursery workers were informed - in front of upset children - that their jobs were being axed at Halo Nurseries’ premises in Westerton and Milngavie.

Parents were told of the closure when they came to pick up their kids - and as a result they were left with a desperate scramble to find alternative childcare.

Many parents have been forced to take unpaid leave while they find a nursery place somewhere else.

Halo Nurseries - formerly Little Gems - had premises at Clober Road in Milngavie and North View Lane in Westerton.

They were owned by businesswoman Ann Rushforth MBE, whose daughter Mhairi had also been running them for some time before it ran into financial trouble.

She has now opened The Butterfly Bakery and Cafe on Milngavie Road, Bearsden.

Staff were initially told Halo Nurseries would be trading under a new name, ScotChildcare Ltd - but this company went into liquidation.

As a result over 60 children need to be placed in new nurseries and it is understood that around 41 members of staff - including those at nurseries in Dumbarton and Helensburgh, which also closed, have lost their jobs.

Parents are demanding answers about how this could have happened and questions have been raised about the withdrawal of partnership funding by East Dunbartonshire Council.

Ann Rushforth said: “ScotChildcare nurseries closed on Friday on the instruction of the liquidator as neither East nor West Dunbartonshire Councils would confirm that they would continue with the partnership funding.

“It was a devastating blow to everyone at ScotChildcare as we have done all in our power to keep them open. Only the pre/afterschool service in Bearsden remains in operation.

“The councils have assured us they have places for all the children, both partnership and wraparound care, and have offered to assist parents in finding new nursery places for their children.

“We are also assisting with transfers to new nurseries as well as helping staff with redundancy arrangements and in securing alternative employment.”

Milngavie mum Katie Risk is furious about the closures - her son went to the Milngavie nursery for four years and her two-year-old daughter was there until Friday.

She said: “We were told that the nurseries had become unsustainable because they no longer had partnership funding.

“The same thing happened two years ago and the parents got together to fight the decision and won it back.

“We believe this closure has been a long term goal for the early years department at East Dunbartonshire Council.

“They should hang their heads in shame as they have taken away another choice for parents.

“My children were very happy there and always came home telling me stories of their friends, trips out looking for the Gruffalo and how they wanted to live there. They loved the brilliant staff.

“I believe the council is complicit in this closure and the resultant upheaval and unsettlement of the children.”

While there are spaces available in some council run nurseries in the area they do not offer wraparound care, which caters for parents who work a full day - they can only take children for two and a half hours a day.

Bearsden MSP Fiona McLeod has written to East Dunbartonshire Council community services director about the sudden closures.

She has asked what help and services will be given to staff to deal with their redundancies and for assurances that parents will be given a place at the private nursery of their choice for the same number of hours as they previously had.

The MSP said: “I am very concerned that the nursery staff were given the same notice as parents.

“Staff and parents spent a frantic weekend facing up to the consequences of the nursery going out of business.

“Parents should be offered like for like places where there is capacity and the funding transferred from one private nursery to another – that seems only fair given this is neither the child nor parents fault.”

Director of East Dunbartonshire Council’s community services, John Simmons, said: “Halo Nurseries Limited had a provisional liquidator appointed and purported to transfer its business to another company, ScotChildcare Limited. East Dunbartonshire Council is obliged to apply the same standards to the new company as the old company (and to all other partnership nurseries) in deciding whether or not to enter into partnership. This includes child safety issues and registration status from the Care Inspectorate. EDC was still considering its position in respect of the new company, in the hope that a way forward could be agreed, when it was notified that the provisional liquidator had decided to proceed with the liquidation.

“The council procures nursery places from 29 private and voluntary nurseries across the authority area. These partnership arrangements are essential so that families have a wide range of options for where they can send their children for quality childcare.

“The council’s Early Years Service’s aim is to work closely with each partnership nursery so they can continue to deliver a quality service.

“We have great sympathy with the situation families find themselves in due to the closures and the Early Years Service has been in contact with them all to provide assistance to access alternative placements for their children.”